Hormonal Therapy for Erection Problems

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
testosterone Androderm, AndroGel, Delatestryl, Depo-Testosterone, Testim

Testosterone can be given as a shot in the muscle, usually every 2 to 3 weeks. This is not the same as medicines you give as a shot in the penis.

Testosterone can also be given as a patch that is placed on the skin and changed every day. Or it can be used as a gel that is applied daily to the skin.

Generic Name Brand Name
bromocriptine Parlodel
cabergoline  

These medicines can be used to treat men who have high prolactin levels, which can reduce the amount of testosterone produced by the body and may lead to problems such as infertility or erection problems. Bromocriptine and cabergoline are taken by mouth.

How It Works

Replacing testosterone, if it is low, may increase a man's sexual desire, or libido.

Bromocriptine and cabergoline help to lower the amount of prolactin in the body. In some men, a noncancerous tumor on the pituitary gland causes the gland to produce too much prolactin.

Why It Is Used

Testosterone may be prescribed for men who have low testosterone levels. It is not recommended for men with testosterone levels in the low part of the normal range.

Bromocriptine and cabergoline may be prescribed for men with high prolactin levels.

Blood tests are needed to find out the levels of these hormones.

How Well It Works

Testosterone may improve libido and has been shown to increase how often a man has sexual intercourse. But testosterone doesn't have a clear effect on erection problems. In some men, combining testosterone with sildenafil (for example, Viagra) increased the number of successful intercourse attempts and improved satisfaction with sexual intercourse.1

There is some evidence that cabergoline can increase the number of erections a man has. It may also help make your erection more firm.1

Bromocriptine may help restore sexual interest and potency when erection problems are caused by high prolactin levels.2

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Bromocriptine

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Blurred vision.
  • A sudden headache.
  • Very bad nausea and vomiting.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Nausea.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Dry mouth.

Cabergoline

Call your doctor if you have:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Constipation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Weakness.

Testosterone

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Blisters, itching, or redness on the skin under the testosterone patch.
  • Breast soreness or enlargement.
  • An erection that lasts longer than 3 hours or is painful.
  • Trouble urinating.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

When you are thinking about hormonal therapy for erection problems, it is important to include your partner in your decision.

While you are taking bromocriptine, avoid alcohol, and use extra care when driving or operating machinery.

When using testosterone products on your skin, make sure you follow all of the instructions that come with the medicine.

Some experts are concerned that testosterone could increase the risk of prostate cancer. Your doctor may recommend regular exams and blood tests to check for problems.

Testosterone can affect your fertility. If you are trying to have a child, you may want to ask your doctor about how this medicine can affect your chances of conceiving.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2009). Diagnosis and Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 171 [AHRQ Publication No. 08(09)-E016]. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online: http://www.ahrq.gov/downloads/pub/evidence/pdf/erectiledys/erecdys.pdf.
  2. Bella AJ, Lue TF (2008). Male sexual dysfunction. In EA Tanagho, JW McAninch, eds., Smith's General Urology, 17th ed., pp. 589–610. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Last Revised October 17, 2012

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